Over the last year there has been substantial progress in the realisation of the Partnership for Structural Biology. At its December meeting, the ESRF Council gave the go-ahead for our participation in the PSB laboratory / office building, to be shared with the Institut de Virologie Moleculaire et Structurale (IVMS) of the Université Joseph Fourier. This is a crucial step forward as the building will be the true centre of the Partnership where teams from the ESRF, the EMBL, the ILL and the IBS will work together on structural biology programmes focussed on human health issues. At the ESRF, the first branch of the new macromolecular crystallography beamline ID23 has already taken its first data sets and will be further enhanced by the installation of an automatic sample changer. However, the most significant event scientifically was the PSB Science Day, held at the Château de Sassenage on 11 December. Speakers from the institutions involved in the PSB presented an exciting programme of work, either in progress or planned, demonstrating the scientific maturity and scientific added value of the PSB. The current year will see a further consolidation of this project, of importance at the European level, with, for example, the start of construction of the PSB building and major progress on the second diffraction branch of ID23.


S. Larsen, S. McSweeney and E. Mitchell during their presentations at the PSB Science Day at the Chateau de Sassenage on 11 December 2003.

As is shown in more detail in the Chapter on the X-ray Source, the Machine's very efficient performance continued in 2003. The beam availability was close to 98% of the scheduled time, an excellent performance considering that severe problems were encountered with the High Quality Power Supply, which cuts in to bridge the gap when there are voltage drops on the external electrical supply. Since February 2003, the storage ring has been refilled without closing the front-end shutters on the beamlines (injection with front-ends open). In this way the sensitive optical elements of the beamlines do not suffer the thermal variations inherent in the previous procedure of closing the shutters during injection. This new mode of operation further increases the efficiency of the ESRF's operation; many beamlines can continue to take data during re-injection.

Many of our complex projects require close collaboration between the different divisions, services and groups. A good example is the modernisation of the Machine control system, a close collaboration between the Computing Services and the Machine Division. After more than ten years of reliable and stable operation, major progress has been made over the last twelve months on a complete overhaul of the vacuum control system. This project will continue throughout 2004 and completion is expected during 2005.

Each year international workshops and conferences on a remarkably diverse range of topics are held at the ESRF. During 2003, the Machine Division organised a workshop on superconducting insertion devices and was host to the European Synchrotron Light Source (ESLS) workshop which brings together accelerator experts from all European synchrotron sources. Experiments Division staff were responsible for a large number of workshops, including meetings on X-ray detectors, hard X-ray spectroscopy, inelastic scattering, radiation damage to biological crystalline samples, and X-ray absorption spectroscopy. In addition, the ESRF was the venue for the 2003 Younger European Chemists' Conference. It is important also that the work of the ESRF be understood and appreciated in our local community as well as in the worldwide scientific community. The success of the ESRF Open Days in March, the first to be held since 2000, demonstrated the level of interest in the Grenoble area in the ESRF. Over the weekend of the Open Days almost 2000 visitors listened intently to the presentations on science at the ESRF and challenged our staff with demanding and perceptive questions.


P. Elleaume and S. Milton (APS) discuss the SASE-type undulators at the Workshop on Superconducting Undulators and Wigglers, held at the ESRF on 30 June 2003.

There was also a focus on internal communication in the latter part of the year as a large number of staff were involved in working groups discussing staffing and organizational issues as part of a Personnel Audit, launched in June and carried out by PROFIL, a Lyon-based consultancy firm. This audit, coming almost ten years after the inauguration of the ESRF, dealt with a number of fundamental questions including: Is the ESRF appropriately organized for its purpose? Are the different units appropriately staffed, quantitatively and qualitatively? The preliminary findings and recommendations of the consultants were presented to the staff in early January 2004. They focus on an intensified project-oriented culture with stronger and more coherent management. The detailed report will be discussed with an international panel of experienced laboratory managers. Management's intention is to consider the implementation of the detailed recommendations in close and continued dialogue with the ESRF's staff.

Turning to membership matters, it is gratifying to record that in January 2003 the Austrian Academy of Sciences joined the ESRF as the third Scientific Associate, while Portugal, a Scientific Associate since 1998, decided to renew its agreement with the ESRF. In an informal ceremony at the ESRF, Professor Thomaz, Portuguese Secretary of State for Science and Technology, and Professor Comès, Chairman of the Council of the ESRF, signed a contract for a further five years. A similar renewal contract has been agreed with the Academy of Science and Humanities of Israel. This will be signed at a ceremony in Jerusalem during January 2004, as part of a workshop on Israeli science carried out at the ESRF. Throughout 2003, contacts have continued with several countries potentially interested in joining the ESRF. The discussions with Poland and Slovakia are at the most advanced stage, whilst preliminary contacts with the Greek scientific community have demonstrated a strong interest in the benefits of ESRF membership.

The next few years will be critical for the ESRF. The current Convention, signed in 1988 between the 12 partner countries, was concluded for an initial period ending on 31 December 2007. The ESRF Council has started to consider a possible renewal of this Convention for a further ten-year period. In parallel, Management has initiated discussions on an ambitious long-term strategy. This will be concerned with all aspects of the ESRF's activities such as new scientific directions, the future development of the X-ray source, new and modified beamlines, personnel issues, and infrastructure requirements. The Science Advisory Committee enthusiastically discussed a draft document outlining our ideas for the long-term development of the ESRF. The Users' Meeting of February 2004 will be focussed on a further discussion of the long-term strategy, which will be a crucial component of the case for renewal of the Convention.

The Highlights 2003 provides an overview of the activities of the ESRF. As in previous years, the ESRF's users and staff have studied a very wide range of science on the forty beamlines. Scientific work at the ESRF has resulted in a total of over 1000 refereed publications for the year 2003. We hope that you enjoy reading about the life and work of the ESRF and that 2004 proves likewise to be a year of progress and success.

W.G. Stirling, R. Dimper, P. Elleaume, H. Krech, S. Larsen, F. Sette, P. Thiry, K. Witte

(January 2004)